Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
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From LucasFilm comes Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first ever standalone Star Wars anthology movie starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, and Riz Ahmed. Directed by Gareth Edwards, the film tells the story about exactly how the Rebel Alliance stole the plans for the Galactic Empire’s super weapon, the Death Star. Is this sort of “expanded universe” movie worthy of the Star Wars name, or is this the sign of Disney just flooding the market in order to cash in on the franchise name?
Do you know who Grand Admiral Thrawn is? Did you know that Boba Fett survived his encounter with the Sarlacc Pit? Well unless you’re a big nerd like me who has read some of the the books written by authors Timothy Zahn and J.D. Montgomery, then you have no clue. Books like “Shadows of the Empire,” “Dark Force Rising,” and “Tales From Jabba’s Palace” are books that were originally approved by George Lucas to expand on the Star Wars universe. He had only so much time to make his iconic movies that he couldn’t get into delving into the lives of all the characters that he created. There’s more to the galaxy than the epic drama of the Skywalker family and these stories and novels were able to elaborate on events and characters briefly hinted at in the episodic movies we have grown to love.
This is the best way to describe Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s a story that’s integral to the Star Wars timeline, but goes beyond the scope of the trilogies. Rogue One takes place between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope. If you remember Revenge of the Sith ends with the blue prints of the Death Star being handed over to the Empire and the construction commencing on the galaxy’s ultimate weapon. And of course A New Hope is all about a farmboy with the help of a wizard, a pirate, a seven-foot walking dog, and a couple of robots destroying that weapon. What Rogue One explains is all the background story of the creator of the Death Star and his daughter. It gets in depth of exactly what powers the laser beam that can destroy worlds and why it’s so powerful. It also shows the inner battle for power within the Empire over who should control the weapon. And of course the main plot of the movie is how a group of rag tag heroes are thrown together and steal the technical readouts that expose the Death Star’s weakness: and exhaust port that’s about two meters wide.
Speaking of that exhaust port, I left Rogue One thinking this was a way for the filmmakers to backpedal on one of the biggest jokes of nerd fiction. If you’ve watched shows like Robot Chicken, they make fun of the idiocy of giving the Death Star this ridiculous weakness. You nerds out there know exactly what I am talking about. Rogue One explains everything about the Death Star and it all makes perfect sense.
The biggest strength of Rogue One is the characters. They are all new to the Star Wars universe and I had no initial emotional attachment to them. I could say the same thing the first time I watched A New Hope and was introduced to Luke, Han, and Leia though. But the movie does an amazing job with developing them and by the end of the movie, I was invested in their fates. Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso is the main protagonist of the story. She is the daughter of the head Imperial scientist (Mads Mikkelsen) who designed the Death Star. This is her story as she goes from Imperial prisoner to Rebel hero. I liked her, maybe not as much as Rey from The Force Awakens, but she is a different type of character. She is strong, independent, and didn’t feel as much of a Mary Sue like Rey came off to be.
The rest of the crew consists of Rebel Alliance Captain, Cassian Andor played by Diego Luna; K-2SO (Kay-Tuesso), Andor’s reprogrammed Imperial robot co-pilot voiced by Alan Tudyk; Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook, an Imperial cargo pilot who defected; Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe, a blind warrior monk who believes in the Force; and Wen Jiang as Baze Malbus, Chirrut’s companion who carries heavy weaponry that gets them both out of trouble.
The supporting cast was great, but who I really loved the most was the robot K-2SO. I loved that he perfectly brought a style of smart ass humor to the movie that without it, would have made the movie really bland. And it wasn’t forced comic relief like C-3PO or even Jar Jar Binks. K-2 was just the right amount. I also really loved the duo of Chirrut and Baze. The team is so diverse and eclectic, that I feel that people will be able to personally attach themselves to a specific character and make them their favorite.
Another thing that really works for Rogue One is the visuals. It did what The Force Awakens did and was to go back to basics with practical effects and costumes when needed and perfectly blend the CGI to match the characters, environments, and vehicles. I also loved how modern technology perfectly brought back some characters whose actors have passed away. One character was even made to look 40 years younger in the same way Marvel made Michael Douglas young again in Ant-Man. One character’s recreation made my jaw drop at how he was visually brought back to life, and another character made me cheer and clap as if I was witnessing it as a kid so many decades before.
The battle scenes were awesome. I’m not gonna lie, the main story was a bit slow and had a lot of set up, but it all culminated into an two-tiered epic battle on land and in space that reminded me of Return of the Jedi, only a bit more modernized in its battle style. It was almost like a live action version of the Star Wars Battlefront video game. From everything in the beginning to develop the plot and characters, it all lead to a really emotional ending that won’t be forgot.
Now a couple issues I did have with the movie was that even though the movie takes place within the Star Wars universe, on some levels it didn’t feel like a Star Wars movie. There was no opening prologue crawl set to the iconic John Williams theme song. The movie also didn’t have that screen wipe from let to right or up and down to change scenes. It was little things like that for a huge nerd like me felt off. It also didn’t feel like a fantasy space opera. Rogue One at times felt more like a World War II movie like Bridge Over the River Kwai, The Dirty Dozen, or even Inglorious Basterds. But i guess that was the point by filmmakers, to make it different as opposed to copy and pasting the George Lucas style of filmmaking. I guess I would have liked the addition of those subtle cues.
And while I did care about the characters towards the end of the film, it took awhile and I couldn’t get myself attached to them early on. And while the character of Chirrut was bad ass and immediately likable, the addition of martial arts seemed a bit out of place. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Kung Fu flicks and Donnie Yen is a complete bad ass in the Ip Man movies, it was just odd to see it in a Star Wars movie. It was like seeing the differences in light saber battles between Obi-Wan and Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace compared to Obi-Wan versus Vader in A New Hope. I appreciated how bad ass the fighting was, but it felt inconsistent.
Speaking of Darth Vader, he’s in the movie, but very briefly. But when he’s on screen, he kicks so much ass. The filmmakers went back to using the type of dialogue from the original trilogy than the whiny verbiage spoken by Anakin. This is the Vader like you’ve never seen with is super cool, but then again his actions and fighting style is inconsistent. Rogue One ends at the exact point that A New Hope begins which by the way was awesome how it perfectly flows into the next film, but we’ve seen Vader in action and it isn’t like what you’ve seen before unless you watch fan-made films on YouTube. I’m not complaining about Vader’s few minutes of awesome killing force, but it felt fanboy inspired rather than organic with the rest of the movies.
Overall, I did have a great time with Rogue One. I took my eleven-year-old daughter with me as she is new fan to the franchise thanks to A Force Awakens. We agreed on a few things: 1) The Force Awakens was better and 2) 3D looked nice, but wasn’t that spectacular. She also hated the ending, which I won’t spoil, but i knew it was coming, so I expected it. And while I could nitpick a few things here and there, I can attest that what Rogue One magnificently accomplishes is showcasing the filmmakers’ love of the Star Wars universe to pass down to the next generation and relive past childhoods. Rogue One is indeed with the Force and the Force is with it.
As a huge Star Wars fan, I absolutely think Rogue One is definitely worth checking out. It felt like one of the expanded universe novels that I used to read come to life and finally made it to the big screen. However, If you’ve never previously seen a Star War film before, this is not the movie to start on as the film is so full of Easter Eggs and event tie-ins that the casual or non-fan will simply be lost in the plot and motivations of the characters. I highly recommend seeing Rogue One on the big screen with loud speakers, but save your money and skip 3D. I don’t feel the film really takes advantage of the extra dimension.